Euro-Area December Consumer Confidence Rises From 3 1/2-Year Low

Euro-area consumer confidence increased in December, signaling the economy may be gaining strength to recover from a recession next year.

An index of household confidence in the 17-nation currency bloc rose to minus 26.6 from minus 26.9 in November, the European Commission in Brussels said in an initial estimate today. Sentiment reached a 3 1/2-year low last month as record unemployment and the recession weighed on sentiment. Economists had forecast an increase to minus 26.5 in the December gauge, according to the median of 29 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Dec. 17 that the new bond-purchase program and the creation of a single banking supervisor may help foster a gradual recovery in the euro area in the second half of next year. Euro-area economic confidence unexpectedly rose in November and business confidence in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, increased in December.

Still, with the jobless rate at a record 11.7 percent and governments cutting spending to rein in excessive debt, the euro area has entered its second recession in four years. The ECB on Dec. 6 lowered its outlook and now expects the euro-area economy to contract 0.5 percent this year and 0.3 percent in 2013.

The commission is scheduled to publish the final numbers for consumer confidence and the wider indicator of euro-area economic confidence on Jan. 8.

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